Web Design and Development | Guide to Effective Website Design

When designing a website many factors need consideration such as navigation, look and feel, implementation strategies and so on. You also need to consider browser incompatibilities especially when considering the use of Javascript. Using layout technologies such as cascading style sheets (CSS) can achieve complex layouts with relative ease. Prior to CSS web page layout was usually achieved using tables and spacer images.

Website development has also grown more complex over the years. There are now many technologies to choose from especially when developing data-driven/dynamic websites. For static content sites technologies such as Flash and Javascript exist (there are probably more!). Combining Javascript and CSS allows the development of numerous visual effects.

Website Loading Times

Don’t you hate it when you go to a website and it takes forever to load? So do your potential customers! Research shows that most people that visit a website are extremely impatient. The average time a user will wait is about 7 seconds. If your site hasn’t loaded or doesn’t show some textual content within this time then you can say goodbye to your customer!

I had this problem with the first release of Bestbuyzz. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why my home page was taking in excess of 9 seconds to load! So I started to comment parts of the site out. I soon realised that the Google Ads I use were the source of the problem. The problem was corrected by placing the Google Ad code into an inline frame.

Website Navigation

This one always crops up. There is nothing worse than poor navigation on a site! As a minimum you should have a menu bar that allows users to go to your main site pages. You should also interlink your pages, especially your important pages as this helps to improve your page ranking. Some search engines assume that the more incoming links a page has the more important it must be. Also ensure that all your pages have at least one incoming link. The best way to ensure all your pages are linked and that search engines will index all your pages is to have a sitemap. As the name suggests the sitemap page is a navigation map that basically lists all the files of your website that you want users and search engine bots to find.

Website Layout

My personal opinion is that page content should be clean and not harsh on the eyes! Ive seen some websites that use amazing colour combinations such as bright yellow text on a black background! After I read the page and went to another site I could still see an imprint of the page (this might actually be a new marketing technique but I don’t think it will catch on!). Make good use of header tags and paragraph tags and use cascading style sheets to change the font, size, colours, etc. The use of headers and paragraph tags is another well-known technique that helps your search engine ranking and page ranking value.

Another definite no is 3,000,000 lines of text on a single web page! Once again I have seen websites that for example have a page that contains 1000’s of links. Let’s be honest, what are the odds that anyone visiting that page is going to bother looking past the first 30 links or so. The key here is to break the content down into more manageable chunks. For example, categorise the links. Place each category in a separate web page and have a single web page that lists the categories. On each category page have a link that points back to your category list page. Our own reciprocal links on Bestbuyzz and e-bayz follow this format.

Using Flash

Flash can look great can’t it? Even I’m amazed at some of the things you can do with Flash. However, using Flash on a website can have the following problems.

  • Loading times
    not everybody that browses the Internet has a broadband connection! Some Flash sites can take forever to load if you are using a slow Internet connection.
  • Search engines
    Search engines can’t index Flash content!
    I’m amazed by the number of websites that promote their primary business products or services by using fancy Flash techniques. Flash content also won’t add to your page ranking value.

If you feel that you need to use Flash on your website then you should ensure you do the following…

  • Have a non-Flash entrance to your website.
  • Ensure that you have text rich content pages to keep the search engines happy.

Personally I don’t use Flash on any of my commercial sites. I believe potential customers are more interested in useful text content rather than fancy graphical effects.

Image Optimizations

Images can have similar problems as Flash content. Small images used for icons, business logo etc are usually fine. Common sense prevails here, test the loading time of your site when you add more images. To improve the overall look and feel of your site consider using Cascading Style Sheets. Images also tend to have an impact on your bandwidth. Most website hosting companies place a maximum allowed monthly bandwidth limit. Image intensive websites are likely to reach this limit fairly quickly.

Many aspects come into play when designing a website. People’s views of what constitutes good website design will vary. That said, good site navigation, fast loading times and a clean look and feel can only add to the experience of users that visit your site.

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